Together on the Professorial Path
Emily King, PhD in English '12, grew up in a Kansas City suburb, while Diego Millan, PhD in English '16, was born in Chile and raised in Malden, Mass. The future wife and husband took two very different paths to the Tufts English PhD program and are now working as professors at two very different universities.
After earning bachelor's degrees in English literature and microbiology at Kansas State University, King applied to a number of MA/PhD programs on the East Coast. She chose Tufts based on the English department's esteemed reputation and its faculty's intriguing areas of research.
Millan, who majored in English literature at Bowdoin College, was drawn to Tufts for those same reasons. In addition, he wanted to be close to home and appreciated the strong sense of community among graduate students and faculty in the English department.
King and Millan met at a new-cohort mixer hosted at a decidedly unglamorous Irish pub in Somerville's Davis Square in 2009. What King describes as a "beautiful and supportive friendship" soon blossomed into something more.
Besides meeting each other, the couple agrees that a highlight of the PhD program was taking independent study courses with faculty as part of groups of two or three students.
"As a student, you're on the spot with nowhere to hide. It taught me how to think through the text we chose in a rigorous fashion," King says. "As a faculty member now, I realize how onerous and time-consuming independent studies can be for faculty members, and I'm grateful for the remarkable experiences I had with [professors] Lee Edelman and Judith Haber."
Serving as instructors of record early in their respective tenures at Tufts also made an impression on King and Millan.
"We both had the opportunity to teach English 1 and English 2 [for first-year undergraduate students], and I teach a version of those classes now," Millan says. "There was a lot of hands-on pedagogical training on effective discussion facilitation—how to make each student feel comfortable in the classroom so they could deliver their best work. I'm very thankful to have that skill."
King's first step after Tufts was becoming a visiting professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Two years later, she landed at Louisiana State University as an Assistant Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama. In 2020 she was named Associate Professor.
"From the start, LSU has felt like a place that could be my home for a number of years," she says. "The school has really facilitated my success, giving me funding and the opportunity to finish my first book ["Civil Vengeance: Literature, Culture, and Early Modern Revenge," Cornell UP, 2019]. And I teach two courses each semester, which gives me much more time to work on research projects."
Millan went from Tufts to Brown University, where he was a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. There, he continued work on his first book, tentatively titled "Laughing at the End of the World," which examines how enduring legacies of racism inform understandings and practices of laughter. In 2018 he joined the faculty of Washington and Lee University, a small liberal arts school in Lexington, Va., as an Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies.
"College was transformative for me. I grew up working class, and college gave me space to grow and learn how to interact with the world, so I've gravitated toward higher ed ever since," he says. "I had supportive, encouraging professors at Bowdoin and Tufts. I wanted to be that person to students, and have been able to be that person, at Washington and Lee."
When King isn't busy with her teaching duties at LSU, she heads to Virginia to spend time with Millan in their home. They recall Boston fondly and returned to the city in 2019 for their wedding, followed by a reception held at—where else?—the Tufts campus.